Our critic’s final ‘gastropub’ plea

Restaurant concepts are rarely born in Las Vegas, but many grow old quickly here. The gastropub is one that threatens to become moribund before it had a chance to mature, in spite of clever efforts such as Todd English P.U.B. and all its delicious deli meats, and Public House at the Venetian, where chef Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 has given us our only accurate example of the genre. His poutine with duck confit and lamb pierogi is tempting and unusual, and he does dishes native to the concept as well, like a mean Scotch egg and those terrific pickles.

However, merely serving craft ale and sliders does not make it a gastropub. The word itself is a portmanteau of gastronomy and pub, so I insist that if you’re going to use it, some creativity and high quality should be present. I associate the name with places in the U.K. such as The Eagle or The Hand & Flowers, for their two Michelin stars and such dishes as crispy pig’s head with rhubarb, crackling and pancetta, or New York City’s Spotted Pig, home to British-born chef April Bloomfield, as well as rabbit rillettes and sautéed squid with pine-nut bread crumbs.

So while it’s commendable that Las Vegas is having a run on upscale pubs—a second Public House, unaffiliated with the first, recently opened at Luxor, and the new Firkin on Paradise is also drawing crowds—let’s hold back on calling all our new restaurants with a beer program a gastropub. Despite all the glitz and hype, the city’s food scene is still ruled by buffets and steak houses. The mantle has to be earned.

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Wine 5 Café

Wine 5 Café

How many cities can boast having a Kenyan restaurant? Wine 5 Café probably wouldn’t call itself that—the menu covers all kinds of cultures, including American and Italian. But our favorite dishes here are from that East African nation, including a terrific chicken curry; ugali, a steamed white polenta served with wine-braised strips of beef called nyama; and amazing samosas, a fusion of Indian and African flavors.